The Virgin Mary is pregnant and it’s an unpleasant — even shocking — surprise.
At least that’s how she is depicted in a controversial new billboard erected Tuesday by St. Matthew-in-the-City, an Anglican church in Auckland, N.Z. Swathed in blue, green and red robes, a shocked Mary clasps her hand over her mouth while looking at a pregnancy test.
“Regardless of any premonition, that discovery (of being pregnant) would have been shocking,” vicar Glynn Cardy and associate priest Clay Nelson wrote on the church website. “Mary was unmarried, young and poor. This pregnancy would shape her future. She was certainly not the first woman in this situation or the last.”
The church has said the billboard is intended to provoke debate, a goal that Archdeacon Paul Feheley, principal secretary to the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, supports.
“Getting people to think about the real and deeper meaning of these events is a really good thing,” Feheley said. “Will it make some uncomfortable? Of course it will. But any thought-provoking ad does that. “I see nothing wrong with churches using creative advertising,” he said, adding that as a parish priest, he once produced a poster that said: “This Christmas, introduce your children to the real Madonna.”
St. Matthew’s invited commenters to think up captions for the billboard as a way to promote conversation, Cardy and Nelson said.